Ajax draw Nice in UCL qualifiers; Celtic on course for Dundalk or...

Ajax draw Nice in UCL qualifiers; Celtic on course for Dundalk or Rosenborg

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Last season’s Europa League finalists Ajax will take on French club Nice in the Champions League third qualifying round, while Celtic or Linfield have been drawn to face Dundalk or Rosenborg.

Ajax, who lost last season’s Europa League final to Manchester United in Stockholm, will play a Nice side that features striker Mario Balotelli, who last month signed a new contract.

Scottish champions Celtic will play the first leg of their second qualifying round tie in Northern Ireland on Friday evening after the fixture was moved due to security concerns.

The winners of that tie will face whoever comes through the two-legged meeting between Irish side Dundalk or Norwegian outfit Rosenborg. That tie is currently poised at 1-1 with the second leg to be played in Trondheim on Wednesday.

Celtic beat Astana of Kazakhstan 3-2 on aggregate at the third-round stage last season. They qualified for the group stage after squeezing past Hapoel Be’er Sheva of Israel 5-4 on aggregate in the playoff round, only for Brendan Rodgers’ side went on to finish bottom, without winning a game, in Group C which also included Barcelona, Manchester City and Borussia Monchengladbach.

On Thursday, Ajax confirmed that midfielder Abdelhak Nouri has suffered “severe and permanent brain damage” following his collapse during a preseason friendly game in Austria last Saturday, when he collapsed in a friendly against Werder Bremen and was put in an induced coma.

“It’s difficult to say what I really feel,” former Ajax head coach Peter Bosz told reporters ahead of embarking on an a tour of Asia with his new club Borussia Dortmund.

“I am shocked. We’ve worked with this lad for one year. He’s not only a good footballer, but also a good human being. When you’re that young, only 20 …,” Bosz said. “We are just shocked. I lack the right words to say something. What is there to say? It’s so unbelievably sad, and, at this moment, nothing else matters.”

The ties will take place on July 25/26 and Aug. 1/2.

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